Let’s Cook: Thumbs up for bread

Easter baking often includes hot cross buns and special egg breads. Now that you have turned on to the bread avenue, let us travel a bit farther down the lane. So don’t unpack your bread baking suitcase just yet because a quick trip here will introduce you to two more easy breads.

The accomplished art of home bread-making is a source of great pleasure and satisfaction to the baker, as well as family and friends who are fortunate enough to sample and enjoy the results. Just for a moment, recall the smiles at your Easter table when the homemade buns were passed. It was perhaps the first empty plate at the table.

There are many aromas that come from the kitchen — some spicy, roasting and toasting – but none are quite as mouthwatering as that of homemade bread baking. It conjures up memories of generations of bakers and the comfort that comes from that first slice of freshly baked bread spread with butter. Over the years, bread has been thought of the most dependable food. I have baked bread in several public locations and even the most diet-conscious person gives way to homemade bread with butter.

Breads are made in such a variety. They can be simple and easy or elaborate and intricate with braiding. It is your choice! Maybe on Monday it is potato bread, Tuesday it is a favorite tea ring. You are leading the chorus and the reply will be a melody of comfort. Many of us can recall our grandmothers and mothers baking the basics – perhaps a couple of times a week. With the expanded bread recipes and convenience kitchens of today, we are blessed to be able to travel well into the world of bread making.

In a previous column, I had written about the batter method which is an easy way to make yeast bread. This method uses all of the basic principles of bread making but eliminates the steps of kneading because you use the rolling pin. The breads presented here today involve kneading. I rarely have conversations about spring baseball, the latest bands, or what shoe supports bring the most comfort. I have however been engaged in some fine conversations about the joys of kneading bread. One woman said this, “when I am upset with my husband, I knead bread. By the time I have finished the process, I have worked out my anger towards him.”

Oh, the benefits of kneading bread! Bread should be kneaded on a floured surface until smooth and satiny. To knead, fold dough over on itself and push with the palms of hands. Repeat this process rhythmically, turning the dough one quarter way around each time. If dough should be sticking simply add a little flour to the surface.

The following recipes make a fair amount and that is where the beauty of our home freezers can assist us. Both yeast and quick bread can be frozen with great results. All bakery products should be frozen the day they are baked. A good rule to remember is this: the longer it stands after baking, the less fresh it will taste when served. Breads, when well wrapped, keep nicely in the freezer for 4 weeks. It is best to thaw at room temperature while still wrapped. It often takes 1 to 2 hours depending upon the warmth of the room and size of the bread. Should you need to unthaw them quickly, simply place bread on a baking sheet and heat at 300 degrees for 15 to 30 minutes, according to the size.

Give making homemade bread a try and you will find it offers many comforts in a busy world. A change in the bread at the red gingham tablecloth is enough to renew ourselves and spark some good conversation.

Scandinavian Rye Bread

This recipe came from the collection of Gladys Rust in Underwood. She had her students make this bread, and since she was friend of my mom, she showed me. It is a heavier, darker bread but very delicious and works well for open face sandwiches. The slight touch of orange rind adds a citrus flavor and appealing flecks of orange.

2 packets regular or quick-rising yeast

1 cup warm water

2 cups buttermilk

§ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup molasses

¢ cup shortening

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons anise seed

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup cold water

2 tablespoons grated orange rind or 3 tablespoon candied orange peel

5 cups rye flour

6 ¢ to 7 cups all-purpose flour

Soften yeast in warm water 115 degrees. Combine in saucepan buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses, shortening, salt and anise seed. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Combine soda and cold water. Add to hot mixture and cool to lukewarm in a 4 quart mixing bowl. Add orange rind and yeast mixing well with whisk. Gradually add the two flours to form a stiff dough.

Knead on well-floured surface until smooth and satiny which will take between 8 and 10 minutes.

Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise in warm place until light and double in size. This will take about 2 hours. Punch down dough. Let rise 30 minutes.

Divide into four parts. Shape into loaves and place in well-greased 9x5x3 inch baking pans. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, 1 to 1 ¢ hours.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Make 4 loaves.

Crescent Rolls

This recipe comes from my wife, Jan. She has taken the time to show Lydia how to make these crescent rolls and Lydia enjoys making them and eating them. Her usual comment when she has one fresh from the oven is “you just cannot beat homemade.”

3 ¢ to 3 § cup all-purpose or unbleached flour

™ cup sugar

™ cup shortening or butter, softened

1 teaspoon salt

1 package regular or quick-acting active dry yeast

¢ cup warm water

¢ cup scalded milk

1 egg

Butter, softened.

Mix yeast with warm water and let sit. Place sugar, shortening, salt, milk in a 4 quart bowl. Mix well and add egg, mix well again. Add 2 cups flour along with warm yeast and blend until smooth. Add additional flour in small amount. Scraping the bowl frequently and adding enough flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased 2 ¢ quart bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place until double which takes about 1 hour. Punch down and roll dough into 12-inch circle on floured surface. Spread with soft butter. Cut into 16 wedges. Roll up, beginning at rounded edge. Place rolls, with points underneath, on greased baking sheet; curve slightly if desired.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes